Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.
There are two memorable times I’ve sung singing in the rain. Once in a monsoon in Nepal, and once at a BBQ for people with psychosis. I was there because I had psychosis.
‘You’re all bastards.’ A fellow barbequer laughed. ‘Smoking!’ She said. She had recently given up. We burst out laughing. Perfect. Me and a guy behind me had just been talking about good and bad in the world.
So yeah, I’ve had psychosis. I’ve had it twice. I’ve been in four hospitals, and I’m going to tell you about three of them, because the first – the general hospital – was too scary to talk about. I’m going to tell you about them how they seemed at the time, so take it all with a bucketful of salt.
Hope it’s entertaining!
The Posh Hosp.
It would be a lie to say it wasn’t terrifying.
Two men came to collect me from the general hospital in Manchester. They walked me over to a car with blacked out windows and got in and locked the doors. I thought they were taking me to torture me. I also thought we were in the matrix because, you know, they were wearing sunglasses.
I put my fingers in my ears to stop from hearing their torture plans.
But then we got to the hospital and everything was fine. After days of squirming and throwing myself out of the bed I laughed because everything was fine.
My family came to visit not long after I arrived and I entertained them with great joy in the music room.
They were pretty concerned nonetheless.
After they left and I went to sit in the garden. I was still feeling joyous.
‘What are you here for?’ A brown haired girl called Terisa said.
‘I’ve killed three people.’ I said.
Eyes darted at me.
‘You wouldn’t be here if you had.’ She said.
I thought about it. Yeah probably not, one of them had just been to visit me.
Well, this garden was funny anyway. It was a private hospital, they couldn’t find me an NHS bed, so you’d think it’d be nice. But it wasn’t really, it looked a cross between a dilapidated playground – you know, the bit at the back where all the kids go to smoke – and a cage. There were very high fences. We weren’t going anywhere.
That night I had my first love-match offer, from a patient obvs.
At first it was great, someone to keep me warm. But then I got ‘the ick’, and that could go on no longer. So I guess that was my shortest relationship, a good half an hour.
Nevertheless I went to sleep that night and slept well for the first time in days.
What was amazing about mental hospital was that our trips fed into each other. There was a guy called Dan who thought he was on some religious mission. I resumed an earlier trip of being a prophet.
‘And what do you think about queens?’ Dan said, Bible in hand.
‘Unnecessary.’ I said.
I put my hand up and stopped the sunshine with my mind.
“Stop.” I heard a voice whisper in a command. I stopped and went rigid. It was the only voice I heard so we reckon it was a door shutting.
What was also amazing about mental hospital was getting to share it with some cute guys. I’d say I almost got into about three relationships in total. Just goes to show you can take sanity out of the girl but you can’t take the flirting out of the girl!
The Not Posh Hosp.
The second hospital was less fun. Less boys! But they’d given me the Depo by this point so I was sedated as fuck.
“There’s no mental illness, just emotional trauma,” Janet said to me, her voice lifeless. I nodded and looked the other way. Janet made me uncomfortable. She had the kind of generosity you didn’t ask for and could never repay. She had the kind of insight you, again, didn’t ask for, and made you uneasy for its resonance of truth; intense. Everyone here had been through something.
“Do you want some bath salts? I’ll get you some.”
“No, I don’t want your bath salts.” I said. But she’d already gone.
She came back and held them out to me.
I took the packet in my hand dismayed. “I don’t want your bath salts Janet.” But she was already talking again. I looked round both ways.
I was saved. “It’s time for the meeting.” A passing nurse said.
“I…” I started. Then I turned away and started following the nurse. Janet was still talking, to no one. I could hear her humming a Bob Marley song as I walked further away, one that had featured in my own illness. I walked a little bit faster.
A long table made of smaller lunch tables spread off down the centre of the common room.
‘Common room’ makes it sound so cheery, like there were chocolate machines and a pool table. It wasn’t bad, there was a TV. But it was more like a school lunch-room with sofas at the end.
Women were sitting by the window or around the TV. A young-ish girl was spinning like a windmill spindle. The rest of us sat down at the table.
I was still holding the bath salts. I didn’t want them.
The meeting had an agenda and the nurse who held it went down her list one-by-one.
First item – the dinners.
Second item – the recreation area.
And so it went on.
One girl piped up, “Nobody ever listens to me. I need to be heard.”
“Okay,” said the nurse holding the meeting, though she didn’t write it down. Onto the next item.
“They’ve been lovely to me,” I said.
They had been up to then. I’m not going to go into too many details, but I witnessed one nurse grab one of the patients and push her back into her room, and I myself was chronically un-listened to.
“That’s ‘cos you’re new.” The girl with big hair said.
“Oh,” I said.
“I’m a trained journalist. If anybody wants to talk to me…” I wish I’d said. But I was recovering from psychosis at the time, and surrounded by mental people (!)
I looked down at my hands.
After the meeting I went to the nurse. “Janet gave me these but I don’t want them,” I said.
She took them from me and gave them back to Janet.
I didn’t look at her and I didn’t want to. I wanted to go home.
Home-time came. My brother came to get me.
I was pretty doped up from all the drugs they’d put me on, but I will literally always remember this as one of the best moments of my life. It went like this: we each put on sunglasses, we notched up the stereo (playing ‘Little Green Bag’ – if you know it take a minute to play it in your mind), I put my elbow on the window sill, and we headed the fuck home.
I looked back through the window. The spindle was still spinning. Not me, not this girl. My trauma had been out-done by a hospital to which I would never, ever return.
My reflection on the second hospital? They could have given us some therapy to begin to recover from what had sent us loopy in the first place. Or, at least, they could have been a little bit kinder.
It was lovely to share that showery day with other psychosis patients. And it was brilliant to share our stories and laugh. I hope whether you’ve been through it or you know someone who has/is, sharing my story now has helped. Bit more insight.
I’m better enough now, on anti-psychotics again. They really help but the sedation is a bitch as I already have ms. I’m going to have to get a wheelchair for the duration of my anti-psychosis treatment. Oh, and also if you’re a professional reading this my experience is that you need to put any ms patients you come across on the least sedating drugs possible.
Anyway, hope you have a brilliant day and thank you for listening!